Honore De Balzac
Part 11 out of 14
somewhat ecclesiastical fashion; the black trousers, black stockings,
black waistcoat, and long puce-colored greatcoat (styled a _levite_ in
the south), all completed his resemblance to a Jesuit.
Boniface was called "tall Cointet" to distinguish him from his
brother, "fat Cointet," and the nicknames expressed a difference in
character as well as a physical difference between a pair of equally
redoubtable personages. As for Jean Cointet, a jolly, stout fellow,
with a face from a Flemish interior, colored by the southern sun of
Angouleme, thick-set, short and paunchy as Sancho Panza; with a smile
on his lips and a pair of sturdy shoulders, he was a striking contrast
to his older brother. Nor was the difference only physical and
intellectual. Jean might almost be called Liberal in politics; he
belonged to the Left Centre, only went to mass on Sundays, and lived
on a remarkably good understanding with the Liberal men of business.
There were those in L'Houmeau who said that this divergence between
the brothers was more apparent than real. Tall Cointet turned his
brother's seeming good nature to advantage very skilfully. Jean was
his bludgeon. It was Jean who gave all the hard words; it was Jean who
conducted the executions which little beseemed the elder brother's
benevolence. Jean took the storms department; he would fly into a
rage, and propose terms that nobody would think of accepting, to pave
the way for his brother's less unreasonable propositions. And by such
policy the pair attained their ends, sooner or later.
Eve, with a woman's tact, had soon divined the characters of the two
brothers; she was on her guard with foes so formidable. David,
informed beforehand of everything by his wife, lent a profoundly
inattentive mind to his enemies' proposals.
"Come to an understanding with my wife," he said, as he left the
Cointets in the office and went back to his laboratory. "Mme. Sechard
knows more about the business than I do myself. I am interested in
something that will pay better than this poor place; I hope to find a
way to retrieve the losses that I have made through you----"
"And how?" asked the fat Cointet, chuckling.
Eve gave her husband a look that meant, "Be careful!"
"You will be my tributaries," said David, "and all other consumers of
"Then what are you investigating?" asked the hypocritical Boniface
Boniface's question slipped out smoothly and insinuatingly, and again
Eve's eyes implored her husband to give an answer that was no answer,
or to say nothing at all.
"I am trying to produce paper at fifty per cent less than the present
cost price," and he went. He did not see the glances exchanged between
the brothers. "That is an inventor, a man of his build cannot sit with
his hands before him.--Let us exploit him," said Boniface's eyes. "How
can we do it?" said Jean's.
Mme. Sechard spoke. "David treats me just in the same way," she said.
"If I show any curiosity, he feels suspicious of my name, no doubt,
and out comes that remark of his; it is only a formula, after all."
"If your husband can work out the formula, he will certainly make a
fortune more quickly than by printing; I am not surprised that he
leaves the business to itself," said Boniface, looking across the
empty workshop, where Kolb, seated upon a wetting-board, was rubbing
his bread with a clove of garlic; "but it would not suit our views to
see this place in the hands of an energetic, pushing, ambitious
competitor," he continued, "and perhaps it might be possible to arrive
at an understanding. Suppose, for instance, that you consented for a
consideration to allow us to put in one of our own men to work your
presses for our benefit, but nominally for you; the thing is sometimes
done in Paris. We would find the fellow work enough to enable him to
rent your place and pay you well, and yet make a profit for himself."
"It depends on the amount," said Eve Sechard. "What is your offer?"
she added, looking at Boniface to let him see that she understood his
scheme perfectly well.
"What is your own idea?" Jean Cointet put in briskly.
"Three thousand francs for six months," said she.
"Why, my dear young lady, you were proposing to sell the place
outright for twenty thousand francs," said Boniface with much suavity.
"The interest on twenty thousand francs is only twelve hundred francs
per annum at six per cent."
For a moment Eve was thrown into confusion; she saw the need for
discretion in matters of business.
"You wish to use our presses and our name as well," she said; "and, as
I have already shown you, I can still do a little business. And then
we pay rent to M. Sechard senior, who does not load us with presents."
After two hours of debate, Eve obtained two thousand francs for six
months, one thousand to be paid in advance. When everything was
concluded, the brothers informed her that they meant to put in Cerizet
as lessee of the premises. In spite of herself, Eve started with
"Isn't it better to have somebody who knows the workshop?" asked the
Eve made no reply; she took leave of the brothers, vowing inwardly to
look after Cerizet.
"Well, here are our enemies in the place!" laughed David, when Eve
brought out the papers for his signature at dinner-time.
"Pshaw!" said she, "I will answer for Kolb and Marion; they alone
would look after things. Besides, we shall be making an income of four
thousand francs from the workshop, which only costs us money as it is;
and looking forward, I see a year in which you may realize your
"You were born to be the wife of a scientific worker, as you said by
the weir," said David, grasping her hand tenderly.
But though the Sechard household had money sufficient that winter,
they were none the less subjected to Cerizet's espionage, and all
unconsciously became dependent upon Boniface Cointet.
"We have them now!" the manager of the paper-mill had exclaimed as he
left the house with his brother the printer. "They will begin to
regard the rent as regular income; they will count upon it and run
themselves into debt. In six months' time we will decline to renew the
agreement, and then we shall see what this man of genius has at the
bottom of his mind; we will offer to help him out of his difficulty by
taking him into partnership and exploiting his discovery."
Any shrewd man of business who should have seen tall Cointet's face as
he uttered those words, "taking him into partnership," would have
known that it behooves a man to be even more careful in the selection
of the partner whom he takes before the Tribunal of Commerce than in
the choice of the wife whom he weds at the Mayor's office. Was it not
enough already, and more than enough, that the ruthless hunters were
on the track of the quarry? How should David and his wife, with Kolb
and Marion to help them, escape the toils of a Boniface Cointet?
A draft for five hundred francs came from Lucien, and this, with
Cerizet's second payment, enabled them to meet all the expenses of
Mme. Sechard's confinement. Eve and the mother and David had thought
that Lucien had forgotten them, and rejoiced over this token of
remembrance as they rejoiced over his success, for his first exploits
in journalism made even more noise in Angouleme than in Paris.
But David, thus lulled into a false security, was to receive a
staggering blow, a cruel letter from Lucien:--
_Lucien to David._
"MY DEAR DAVID,--I have drawn three bills on you, and negotiated
them with Metivier; they fall due in one, two, and three months'
time. I took this hateful course, which I know will burden you
heavily, because the one alternative was suicide. I will explain
my necessity some time, and I will try besides to send the amounts
as the bills fall due.
"Burn this letter; say nothing to my mother and sister; for, I
confess it, I have counted upon you, upon the heroism known so
well to your despairing brother,
"LUCIEN DE RUBEMPRE."
By this time Eve had recovered from her confinement.
"Your brother, poor fellow, is in desperate straits," David told her.
"I have sent him three bills for a thousand francs at one, two, and
three months; just make a note of them," and he went out into the
fields to escape his wife's questionings.
But Eve had felt very uneasy already. It was six months since Lucien
had written to them. She talked over the news with her mother till her
forebodings grew so dark that she made up her mind to dissipate them.
She would take a bold step in her despair.
Young M. de Rastignac had come to spend a few days with his family. He
had spoken of Lucien in terms that set Paris gossip circulating in
Angouleme, till at last it reached the journalist's mother and sister.
Eve went to Mme. de Rastignac, asked the favor of an interview with
her son, spoke of all her fears, and asked him for the truth. In a
moment Eve heard of her brother's connection with the actress Coralie,
of his duel with Michel Chrestien, arising out of his own treacherous
behavior to Daniel d'Arthez; she received, in short, a version of
Lucien's history, colored by the personal feeling of a clever and
envious dandy. Rastignac expressed sincere admiration for the
abilities so terribly compromised, and a patriotic fear for the future
of a native genius; spite and jealousy masqueraded as pity and
friendliness. He spoke of Lucien's blunders. It seemed that Lucien had
forfeited the favor of a very great person, and that a patent
conferring the right to bear the name and arms of Rubempre had
actually been made out and subsequently torn up.
"If your brother, madame, had been well advised, he would have been on
the way to honors, and Mme. de Bargeton's husband by this time; but
what can you expect? He deserted her and insulted her. She is now Mme.
la Comtesse Sixte du Chatelet, to her own great regret, for she loved
"Is it possible!" exclaimed Mme. Sechard.
"Your brother is like a young eagle, blinded by the first rays of
glory and luxury. When an eagle falls, who can tell how far he may
sink before he drops to the bottom of some precipice? The fall of a
great man is always proportionately great."
Eve came away with a great dread in her heart; those last words
pierced her like an arrow. She had been wounded to the quick. She said
not a word to anybody, but again and again a tear rolled down her
cheeks, and fell upon the child at her breast. So hard is it to give
up illusions sanctioned by family feeling, illusions that have grown
with our growth, that Eve had doubted Eugene de Rastignac. She would
rather hear a true friend's account of her brother. Lucien had given
them d'Arthez's address in the days when he was full of enthusiasm for
the brotherhood; she wrote a pathetic letter to d'Arthez, and received
the following reply:--
_D'Arthez to Mme. Sechard._
"MADAME,--You ask me to tell you the truth about the life that
your brother is leading in Paris; you are anxious for
enlightenment as to his prospects; and to encourage a frank answer
on my part, you repeat certain things that M. de Rastignac has
told you, asking me if they are true. With regard to the purely
personal matter, madame, M. de Rastignac's confidences must be
corrected in Lucien's favor. Your brother wrote a criticism of my
book, and brought it to me in remorse, telling me that he could
not bring himself to publish it, although obedience to the orders
of his party might endanger one who was very dear to him. Alas!
madame, a man of letters must needs comprehend all passions, since
it is his pride to express them; I understood that where a
mistress and a friend are involved, the friend is inevitably
sacrificed. I smoothed your brother's way; I corrected his
murderous article myself, and gave it my full approval.
"You ask whether Lucien has kept my friendship and esteem; to this
it is difficult to make an answer. Your brother is on a road that
leads him to ruin. At this moment I still feel sorry for him;
before long I shall have forgotten him, of set purpose, not so
much on account of what he has done already as for that which he
inevitably will do. Your Lucien is not a poet, he has the poetic
temper; he dreams, he does not think; he spends himself in
emotion, he does not create. He is, in fact--permit me to say it
--a womanish creature that loves to shine, the Frenchman's great
failing. Lucien will always sacrifice his best friend for the
pleasure of displaying his own wit. He would not hesitate to sign
a pact with the Devil to-morrow if so he might secure a few years
of luxurious and glorious life. Nay, has he not done worse
already? He has bartered his future for the short-lived delights
of living openly with an actress. So far, he has not seen the
dangers of his position; the girl's youth and beauty and devotion
(for she worships him) have closed his eyes to the truth; he
cannot see that no glory or success or fortune can induce the
world to accept the position. Very well, as it is now, so it will
be with each new temptation--your brother will not look beyond the
enjoyment of the moment. Do not be alarmed: Lucien will never go
so far as a crime, he has not the strength of character; but he
would take the fruits of a crime, he would share the benefit but
not the risk--a thing that seems abhorrent to the whole world,
even to scoundrels. Oh, he would despise himself, he would repent;
but bring him once more to the test, and he would fail again; for
he is weak of will, he cannot resist the allurements of pleasure,
nor forego the least of his ambitions. He is indolent, like all
who would fain be poets; he thinks it clever to juggle with the
difficulties of life instead of facing and overcoming them. He
will be brave at one time, cowardly at another, and deserves
neither credit for his courage, nor blame for his cowardice.
Lucien is like a harp with strings that are slackened or tightened
by the atmosphere. He might write a great book in a glad or angry
mood, and care nothing for the success that he had desired for so
"When he first came to Paris he fell under the influence of an
unprincipled young fellow, and was dazzled by his companion's
adroitness and experience in the difficulties of a literary life.
This juggler completely bewitched Lucien; he dragged him into a
life which a man cannot lead and respect himself, and, unluckily
for Lucien, love shed its magic over the path. The admiration that
is given too readily is a sign of want of judgment; a poet ought
not to be paid in the same coin as a dancer on the tight-rope. We
all felt hurt when intrigue and literary rascality were preferred
to the courage and honor of those who counseled Lucien rather to
face the battle than to filch success, to spring down into the
arena rather than become a trumpet in the orchestra.
"Society, madame, oddly enough, shows plentiful indulgence to
young men of Lucien's stamp; they are popular, the world is
fascinated by their external gifts and good looks. Nothing is
asked of them, all their sins are forgiven; they are treated like
perfect natures, others are blind to their defects, they are the
world's spoiled children. And, on the other hand, the world is
stern beyond measure to strong and complete natures. Perhaps in
this apparently flagrant injustice society acts sublimely, taking
a harlequin at his just worth, asking nothing of him but
amusement, promptly forgetting him; and asking divine great deeds
of those before whom she bends the knee. Everything is judged by
laws of its being; the diamond must be flawless; the ephemeral
creation of fashion may be flimsy, bizarre, inconsequent. So
Lucien may perhaps succeed to admiration in spite of his mistakes;
he has only to profit by some happy vein or to be among good
companions; but if an evil angel crosses his path, he will go to
the very depths of hell. 'Tis a brilliant assemblage of good
qualities embroidered upon too slight a tissue; time wears the
flowers away till nothing but the web is left; and if that is poor
stuff, you behold a rag at the last. So long as Lucien is young,
people will like him; but where will he be as a man of thirty?
That is the question which those who love him sincerely are bound
to ask themselves. If I alone had come to think in this way of
Lucien, I might perhaps have spared you the pain which my plain
speaking will give you; but to evade the questions put by your
anxiety, and to answer a cry of anguish like your letter with
commonplaces, seemed to me alike unworthy of you and of me, whom
you esteem too highly; and besides, those of my friends who knew
Lucien are unanimous in their judgment. So it appeared to me to be
a duty to put the truth before you, terrible though it may be.
Anything may be expected of Lucien, anything good or evil. That is
our opinion, and this letter is summed up in that sentence. If the
vicissitudes of his present way of life (a very wretched and
slippery one) should bring the poet back to you, use all your
influence to keep him among you; for until his character has
acquired stability, Paris will not be safe for him. He used to
speak of you, you and your husband, as his guardian angels; he has
forgotten you, no doubt; but he will remember you again when
tossed by tempest, with no refuge left to him but his home. Keep
your heart for him, madame; he will need it.
"Permit me, madame, to convey to you the expression of the sincere
respect of a man to whom your rare qualities are known, a man who
honors your mother's fears so much, that he desires to style
himself your devoted servant,
Two days after the letter came, Eve was obliged to find a wet-nurse;
her milk had dried up. She had made a god of her brother; now, in her
eyes, he was depraved through the exercise of his noblest faculties;
he was wallowing in the mire. She, noble creature that she was, was
incapable of swerving from honesty and scrupulous delicacy, from all
the pious traditions of the hearth, which still burns so clearly and
sheds its light abroad in quiet country homes. Then David had been
right in his forecasts! The leaden hues of grief overspread Eve's
white brow. She told her husband her secret in one of the pellucid
talks in which married lovers tell everything to each other. The tones
of David's voice brought comfort. Though the tears stood in his eyes
when he knew that grief had dried his wife's fair breast, and knew
Eve's despair that she could not fulfil a mother's duties, he held out
"Your brother's imagination has let him astray, you see, child. It is
so natural that a poet should wish for blue and purple robes, and
hurry as eagerly after festivals as he does. It is a bird that loves
glitter and luxury with such simple sincerity, that God forgives him
if man condemns him for it."
"But he is draining our lives!" exclaimed poor Eve.
"He is draining our lives just now, but only a few months ago he saved
us by sending us the first fruits of his earnings," said the good
David. He had the sense to see that his wife was in despair, was going
beyond the limit, and that love for Lucien would very soon come back.
"Fifty years ago, or thereabouts, Mercier said in his _Tableau de Paris_
that a man cannot live by literature, poetry, letters, or science, by
the creatures of his brain, in short; and Lucien, poet that he is,
would not believe the experience of five centuries. The harvests that
are watered with ink are only reaped ten or twelve years after the
sowing, if indeed there is any harvest after all. Lucien has taken the
green wheat for the sheaves. He will have learned something of life,
at any rate. He was the dupe of a woman at the outset; he was sure to
be duped afterwards by the world and false friends. He has bought his
experience dear, that is all. Our ancestors used to say, 'If the son
of the house brings back his two ears and his honor safe, all is
"Honor!" poor Eve broke in. "Oh, but Lucien has fallen in so many
ways! Writing against his conscience! Attacking his best friend!
Living upon an actress! Showing himself in public with her. Bringing
us to lie on straw----"
"Oh, that is nothing----!" cried David, and suddenly stopped short.
The secret of Lucien's forgery had nearly escaped him, and, unluckily,
his start left a vague, uneasy impression on Eve.
"What do you mean by nothing?" she answered. "And where shall we find
the money to meet bills for three thousand francs?"
"We shall be obliged to renew the lease with Cerizet, to begin with,"
said David. "The Cointets have been allowing him fifteen per cent on
the work done for them, and in that way alone he has made six hundred
francs, besides contriving to make five hundred francs by job
"If the Cointets know that, perhaps they will not renew the lease.
They will be afraid of him, for Cerizet is a dangerous man."
"Eh! what is that to me!" cried David, "we shall be rich in a very
little while. When Lucien is rich, dear angel, he will have nothing
but good qualities."
"Oh! David, my dear, my dear; what is this that you have said
unthinkingly? Then Lucien fallen into the clutches of poverty would
not have the force of character to resist evil? And you think just as
M. d'Arthez thinks! No one is great unless he has strength of
character, and Lucien is weak. An angel must not be tempted--what is
"What but a nature that is noble only in its own region, its own
sphere, its heaven? I will spare him the struggle; Lucien is not meant
for it. Look here! I am so near the end now that I can talk to you
about the means."
He drew several sheets of white paper from his pocket, brandished them
in triumph, and laid them on his wife's lap.
"A ream of this paper, royal size, would cost five francs at the
most," he added, while Eve handled the specimens with almost childish
"Why, how did you make these sample bits?" she asked.
"With an old kitchen sieve of Marion's."
"And are you not satisfied yet?" asked Eve.
"The problem does not lie in the manufacturing process; it is a
question of the first cost of the pulp. Alas, child, I am only a late
comer in a difficult path. As long ago as 1794, Mme. Masson tried to
use printed paper a second time; she succeeded, but what a price it
cost! The Marquis of Salisbury tried to use straw as a material in
1800, and the same idea occurred to Seguin in France in 1801. Those
sheets in your hand are made from the common rush, the _arundo
phragmites_, but I shall try nettles and thistles; for if the material
is to continue to be cheap, one must look for something that will grow
in marshes and waste lands where nothing else can be grown. The whole
secret lies in the preparation of the stems. At present my method is
not quite simple enough. Still, in spite of this difficulty, I feel
sure that I can give the French paper trade the privilege of our
literature; papermaking will be for France what coal and iron and
coarse potter's clay are for England--a monopoly. I mean to be the
Jacquart of the trade."
Eve rose to her feet. David's simple-mindedness had roused her to
enthusiasm, to admiration; she held out her arms to him and held him
tightly to her, while she laid her head upon his shoulder.
"You give me my reward as if I had succeeded already," he said.
For all answer, Eve held up her sweet face, wet with tears, to his,
and for a moment she could not speak.
"The kiss was not for the man of genius," she said, "but for my
comforter. Here is a rising glory for the glory that has set; and, in
the midst of my grief for the brother that has fallen so low, my
husband's greatness is revealed to me.--Yes, you will be great, great
like the Graindorges, the Rouvets, and Van Robais, and the Persian who
discovered madder, like all the men you have told me about; great men
whom nobody remembers, because their good deeds were obscure
"What are they doing just now?"
It was Boniface Cointet who spoke. He was walking up and down outside
in the Place du Murier with Cerizet watching the silhouettes of the
husband and wife on the blinds. He always came at midnight for a chat
with Cerizet, for the latter played the spy upon his former master's
"He is showing her the paper he made this morning, no doubt," said
"What is it made of?" asked the paper manufacturer.
"Impossible to guess," answered Cerizet; "I made a hole in the roof
and scrambled up and watched the gaffer; he was boiling pulp in a
copper pan all last night. There was a heap of stuff in a corner, but
I could make nothing of it; it looked like a heap of tow, as near as I
could make out."
"Go no farther," said Boniface Cointet in unctuous tones; "it would
not be right. Mme. Sechard will offer to renew your lease; tell her
that you are thinking of setting up for yourself. Offer her half the
value of the plant and license, and, if she takes the bid, come to me.
In any case, spin the matter out. . . . Have they no money?"
"Not a sou," said Cerizet.
"Not a sou," repeated tall Cointet.--"I have them now," said he to
Metivier, paper manufacturers' wholesale agent, and Cointet Brothers,
printers and paper manufacturers, were also bankers in all but name.
This surreptitious banking system defies all the ingenuity of the
Inland Revenue Department. Every banker is required to take out a
license which, in Paris, costs five hundred francs; but no hitherto
devised method of controlling commerce can detect the delinquents, or
compel them to pay their due to the Government. And though Metivier
and the Cointets were "outside brokers," in the language of the Stock
Exchange, none the less among them they could set some hundreds of
thousands of francs moving every three months in the markets of Paris,
Bordeaux, and Angouleme. Now it so fell out that that very evening
Cointet Brothers had received Lucien's forged bills in the course of
business. Upon this debt, tall Cointet forthwith erected a formidable
engine, pointed, as will presently be seen, against the poor, patient
By seven o'clock next morning, Boniface Cointet was taking a walk by
the mill stream that turned the wheels in his big factory; the sound
of the water covered his talk, for he was talking with a companion, a
young man of nine-and-twenty, who had been appointed attorney to the
Court of First Instance in Angouleme some six weeks ago. The young
man's name was Pierre Petit-Claud.
"You are a schoolfellow of David Sechard's, are you not?" asked tall
Cointet by way of greeting to the young attorney. Petit-Claud had lost
no time in answering the wealthy manufacturer's summons.
"Yes, sir," said Petit-Claud, keeping step with tall Cointet.
"Have you renewed the acquaintance?"
"We have met once or twice at most since he came back. It could hardly
have been otherwise. In Paris I was buried away in the office or at
the courts on week-days, and on Sundays and holidays I was hard at
work studying, for I had only myself to look to." (Tall Cointet nodded
approvingly.) "When we met again, David and I, he asked me what I had
done with myself. I told him that after I had finished my time at
Poitiers, I had risen to be Maitre Olivet's head-clerk, and that some
time or other I hoped to make a bid for his berth. I know a good deal
more of Lucien Chardon (de Rubempre he calls himself now), he was Mme.
de Bargeton's lover, our great poet, David Sechard's brother-in-law,
"Then you can go and tell David of your appointment, and offer him
your services," said tall Cointet.
"One can't do that," said the young attorney.
"He has never had a lawsuit, and he has no attorney, so one can do
that," said Cointet, scanning the other narrowly from behind his
A certain quantity of gall mingled with the blood in Pierre
Petit-Claud's veins; his father was a tailor in L'Houmeau, and his
schoolfellows had looked down upon him. His complexion was of the
muddy and unwholesome kind which tells a tale of bad health, late
hours and penury, and almost always of a bad disposition. The best
description of him may be given in two familiar expressions--he was
sharp and snappish. His cracked voice suited his sour face, meagre
look, and magpie eyes of no particular color. A magpie eye, according
to Napoleon, is a sure sign of dishonesty. "Look at So-and-so," he
said to Las Cases at Saint Helena, alluding to a confidential servant
whom he had been obliged to dismiss for malversation. "I do not know
how I could have been deceived in him for so long; he has a magpie
eye." Tall Cointet, surveying the weedy little lawyer, noted his face
pitted with smallpox, the thin hair, and the forehead, bald already,
receding towards a bald cranium; saw, too, the confession of weakness
in his attitude with the hand on the hip. "Here is my man," said he to
As a matter of fact, this Petit-Claud, who had drunk scorn like water,
was eaten up with a strong desire to succeed in life; he had no money,
but nevertheless he had the audacity to buy his employer's connection
for thirty thousand francs, reckoning upon a rich marriage to clear
off the debt, and looking to his employer, after the usual custom, to
find him a wife, for an attorney always has an interest in marrying
his successor, because he is the sooner paid off. But if Petit-Claud
counted upon his employer, he counted yet more upon himself. He had
more than average ability, and that of a kind not often found in the
provinces, and rancor was the mainspring of his power. A mighty hatred
makes a mighty effort.
There is a great difference between a country attorney and an attorney
in Paris; tall Cointet was too clever not to know this, and to turn
the meaner passions that move a pettifogging lawyer to good account.
An eminent attorney in Paris, and there are many who may be so
qualified, is bound to possess to some extent the diplomate's
qualities; he had so much business to transact, business in which
large interests are involved; questions of such wide interest are
submitted to him that he does not look upon procedure as machinery for
bringing money into his pocket, but as a weapon of attack and defence.
A country attorney, on the other hand, cultivates the science of
costs, _broutille_, as it is called in Paris, a host of small items that
swell lawyers' bills and require stamped paper. These weighty matters
of the law completely fill the country attorney's mind; he has a bill
of costs always before his eyes, whereas his brother of Paris thinks
of nothing but his fees. The fee is a honorarium paid by a client over
and above the bill of costs, for the more or less skilful conduct of
his case. One-half of the bill of costs goes to the Treasury, whereas
the entire fee belongs to the attorney. Let us admit frankly that the
fees received are seldom as large as the fees demanded and deserved by
a clever lawyer. Wherefore, in Paris, attorneys, doctors, and
barristers, like courtesans with a chance-come lover, take very
considerable precautions against the gratitude of clients. The client
before and after the lawsuit would furnish a subject worthy of
Meissonier; there would be brisk bidding among attorneys for the
possession of two such admirable bits of genre.
There is yet another difference between the Parisian and the country
attorney. An attorney in Paris very seldom appears in court, though he
is sometimes called upon to act as arbitrator (_refere_). Barristers,
at the present day, swarm in the provinces; but in 1822 the country
attorney very often united the functions of solicitor and counsel. As
a result of this double life, the attorney acquired the peculiar
intellectual defects of the barrister, and retained the heavy
responsibilities of the attorney. He grew talkative and fluent, and
lost his lucidity of judgment, the first necessity for the conduct of
affairs. If a man of more than ordinary ability tries to do the work
of two men, he is apt to find that the two men are mediocrities. The
Paris attorney never spends himself in forensic eloquence; and as he
seldom attempts to argue for and against, he has some hope of
preserving his mental rectitude. It is true that he brings the balista
of the law to work, and looks for the weapons in the armory of
judicial contradictions, but he keeps his own convictions as to the
case, while he does his best to gain the day. In a word, a man loses
his head not so much by thinking as by uttering thoughts. The spoken
word convinces the utterer; but a man can act against his own bad
judgment without warping it, and contrive to win in a bad cause
without maintaining that it is a good one, like the barrister. Perhaps
for this very reason an old attorney is the more likely of the two to
make a good judge.
A country attorney, as we have seen, has plenty of excuses for his
mediocrity; he takes up the cause of petty passions, he undertakes
pettifogging business, he lives by charging expenses, he strains the
Code of procedure and pleads in court. In a word, his weak points are
legion; and if by chance you come across a remarkable man practising
as a country attorney, he is indeed above the average level.
"I thought, sir, that you sent for me on your own affairs," said
Petit-Claud, and a glance that put an edge on his words fell upon tall
Cointet's impenetrable blue spectacles.
"Let us have no beating about the bush," returned Boniface Cointet.
"Listen to me."
After that beginning, big with mysterious import, Cointet set himself
down upon a bench, and beckoned Petit-Claud to do likewise.
"When M. du Hautoy came to Angouleme in 1804, on his way to his
consulship at Valence, he made the acquaintance of Mme. de Senonches,
then Mlle. Zephirine, and had a daughter by her," added Cointet for
the attorney's ear----"Yes," he continued, as Petit-Claud gave a
start; "yes, and Mlle. Zephirine's marriage with M. de Senoches soon
followed the birth of the child. The girl was brought up in my
mother's house; she is the Mlle. Francoise de la Haye in whom Mme. de
Senoches takes an interest; she is her godmother in the usual style.
Now, my mother farmed land belonging to old Mme. de Cardanet, Mlle.
Zephirine's grandmother; and as she knew the secret of the sole
heiress of the Cardanets and the Senonches of the older branch, they
made me trustee for the little sum which M. Francois du Hautoy meant
for the girl's fortune. I made my own fortune with those ten thousand
francs, which amount to thirty thousand at the present day. Mme. de
Senonches is sure to give the wedding clothes, and some plate and
furniture to her goddaughter. Now, I can put you in the way of
marrying the girl, my lad," said Cointet, slapping Petit-Claud on the
knee; "and when you marry Francoise de la Haye, you will have a large
number of the aristocracy of Angouleme as your clients. This
understanding between us (under the rose) will open up magnificent
prospects for you. Your position will be as much as any one could
want; in fact, they don't ask better, I know."
"What is to be done?" Petit-Claud asked eagerly. "You have an
attorney, Maitre Cachan----"
"And, moreover, I shall not leave Cachan at once for you; I shall only
be your client later on," said Cointet significantly. "What is to be
done, do you ask, my friend? Eh! why, David Sechard's business. The
poor devil has three thousand francs' worth of bills to meet; he will
not meet them; you will stave off legal proceedings in such a way as
to increase the expenses enormously. Don't trouble yourself; go on,
pile on items. Doublon, my process-server, will act under Cachan's
directions, and he will lay on like a blacksmith. A word to the wise
is sufficient. Now, young man?----"
An eloquent pause followed, and the two men looked at each other.
"We have never seen each other," Cointet resumed; "I have not said a
syllable to you; you know nothing about M. du Hautoy, nor Mme. de
Senonches, nor Mlle. de la Haye; only, when the time comes, two months
hence, you will propose for the young lady. If we should want to see
each other, you will come here after dark. Let us have nothing in
"Then you mean to ruin Sechard?" asked Petit-Claud.
"Not exactly; but he must be in jail for some time----"
"And what is the object?"
"Do you think that I am noodle enough to tell you that? If you have
wit enough to find out, you will have sense enough to hold your
"Old Sechard has plenty of money," said Petit-Claud. He was beginning
already to enter into Boniface Cointet's notions, and foresaw a
possible cause of failure.
"So long as the father lives, he will not give his son a farthing; and
the old printer has no mind as yet to send in an order for his funeral
"Agreed!" said Petit-Claud, promptly making up his mind. "I don't ask
you for guarantees; I am an attorney. If any one plays me a trick,
there will be an account to settle between us."
"The rogue will go far," thought Cointet; he bade Petit-Claud
The day after this conference was the 30th of April, and the Cointets
presented the first of the three bills forged by Lucien. Unluckily,
the bill was brought to poor Mme. Sechard; and she, seeing at once
that the signature was not in her husband's handwriting, sent for
David and asked him point-blank:
"You did not put your name to that bill, did you?"
"No," said he; "your brother was so pressed for time that he signed
Eve returned the bill to the bank messenger sent by the Cointets.
"We cannot meet it," she said; then, feeling that her strength was
failing, she went up to her room. David followed her.
"Go quickly to the Cointets, dear," Eve said faintly; "they will have
some consideration for you; beg them to wait; and call their attention
besides to the fact that when Cerizet's lease is renewed, they will
owe you a thousand francs."
David went forthwith to his enemies. Now, any foreman may become a
master printer, but there are not always the makings of a good man of
business in a skilled typographer; David knew very little of business;
when, therefore, with a heavily-beating heart and a sensation of
throttling, David had put his excuses badly enough and formulated his
request, the answer--"This is nothing to do with us; the bill has been
passed on to us by Metivier; Metivier will pay us. Apply to M.
Metivier"--cut him short at once.
"Oh!" cried Eve when she heard the result, "as soon as the bill is
returned to M. Metivier, we may be easy."
At two o'clock the next day, Victor-Ange-Hermenegilde Doublon,
bailiff, made protest for non-payment at two o'clock, a time when the
Place du Murier is full of people; so that though Doublon was careful
to stand and chat at the back door with Marion and Kolb, the news of
the protest was known all over the business world of Angouleme that
evening. Tall Cointet had enjoined it upon Master Doublon to show the
Sechards the greatest consideration; but when all was said and done,
could the bailiff's hypocritical regard for appearances save Eve and
David from the disgrace of a suspension of payment? Let each judge for
himself. A tolerably long digression of this kind will seem all too
short; and ninety out of every hundred readers shall seize with
avidity upon details that possess all the piquancy of novelty, thus
establishing yet once again the trust of the well-known axiom, that
there is nothing so little known as that which everybody is supposed
to know--the Law of the Land, to wit.
And of a truth, for the immense majority of Frenchmen, a minute
description of some part of the machinery of banking will be as
interesting as any chapter of foreign travel. When a tradesman living
in one town gives a bill to another tradesman elsewhere (as David was
supposed to have done for Lucien's benefit), the transaction ceases to
be a simple promissory note, given in the way of business by one
tradesman to another in the same place, and becomes in some sort a
letter of exchange. When, therefore, Metivier accepted Lucien's three
bills, he was obliged to send them for collection to his
correspondents in Angouleme--to Cointet Brothers, that is to say.
Hence, likewise, a certain initial loss for Lucien in exchange on
Angouleme, taking the practical shape of an abatement of so much per
cent over and above the discount. In this way Sechard's bills had
passed into circulation in the bank. You would not believe how greatly
the quality of banker, united with the august title of creditor,
changes the debtor's position. For instance, when a bill has been
passed through the bank (please note that expression), and transferred
from the money market in Paris to the financial world of Angouleme, if
that bill is protested, then the bankers in Angouleme must draw up a
detailed account of the expenses of protest and return; 'tis a duty
which they owe to themselves. Joking apart, no account of the most
romantic adventure could be more mildly improbable than this of the
journey made by a bill. Behold a certain article in the Code of
commerce authorizing the most ingenious pleasantries after
Mascarille's manner, and the interpretation thereof shall make
apparent manifold atrocities lurking beneath the formidable word
Master Doublon registered the protest and went himself with it to MM.
Cointet Brothers. The firm had a standing account with their bailiff;
he gave them six months' credit; and the lynxes of Angouleme
practically took a twelvemonth, though tall Cointet would say month by
month to the lynxes' jackal, "Do you want any money, Doublon?" Nor was
this all. Doublon gave the influential house a rebate upon every
transaction; it was the merest trifle, one franc fifty centimes on a
protest, for instance.
Tall Cointet quietly sat himself down at his desk and took out a small
sheet of paper with a thirty-five centime stamp upon it, chatting as
he did so with Doublon as to the standing of some of the local
"Well, are you satisfied with young Gannerac?"
"He is not doing badly. Lord, a carrier drives a trade----"
"Drives a trade, yes; but, as a matter of fact, his expenses are a
heavy pull on him; his wife spends a good deal, so they tell me----"
"Of _his_ money?" asked Doublon, with a knowing look.
The lynx meanwhile had finished ruling his sheet of paper, and now
proceeded to trace the ominous words at the head of the following
account in bold characters:--
ACCOUNT OF EXPENSES OF PROTEST AND RETURN.
_To one bill for_ one thousand francs, _bearing date of February the
tenth, eighteen hundred and twenty-two, drawn by_ Sechard junior _of
Angouleme, to order of_ Lucien Chardon, _otherwise_ de Rubempre,
_endorsed to order of_ Metivier, _and finally to our order, matured
the thirtieth of April last, protested by_ Doublon, _process-server,
on the first of May, eighteen hundred and twenty-two._
Principal . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1000 --
Expenses of Protest. . . . . . . . . . . . . 12 35
Bank charges, one-half per cent. . . . . . . 5 --
Brokerage, one-quarter per cent. . . . . . . 2 50
Stamp on re-draft and present account. . . . 1 35
Interest and postage . . . . . . . . . . . . 3 --
Exchange at the rate of one and a quarter
per cent on 1024 fr. 20 c.. . . . . . . . 13 25
Total. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1037 45
_One thousand and thirty-seven francs forty-five centimes, for
which we repay ourselves by our draft at sight upon M. Metivier,
Rue Serpente, Paris, payable to order of M. Gannerac of L'Houmeau._
ANGOULEME, May 2, 1822 COINTET BROTHERS.
At the foot of this little memorandum, drafted with the ease that
comes of long practice (for the writer chatted with Doublon as he
wrote), there appeared the subjoined form of declaration:--
"We, the undersigned, Postel of L'Houmeau, pharmaceutical chemist,
and Gannerac, forwarding agent, merchant of this town, hereby
certify that the present rate of exchange on Paris is one and a
quarter per cent.
"ANGOULEME, May 2, 1822."
"Here, Doublon, be so good as to step round and ask Postel and
Gannerac to put their names to this declaration, and bring it back
with you to-morrow morning."
And Doublon, quite accustomed as he was to these instruments of
torture, forthwith went, as if it were the simplest thing in the
world. Evidently the protest might have been sent in an envelope, as
in Paris, and even so all Angouleme was sure to hear of the poor
Sechards' unlucky predicament. How they all blamed his want of
business energy! His excessive fondness for his wife had been the ruin
of him, according to some; others maintained that it was his affection
for his brother-in-law; and what shocking conclusions did they not
draw from these premises! A man ought never to embrace the interests
of his kith and kin. Old Sechard's hard-hearted conduct met with
approval, and people admired him for his treatment of his son!
And now, all you who for any reason whatsoever should forget to "honor
your engagements," look well into the methods of the banking business,
by which one thousand francs may be made to pay interest at the rate
of twenty-eight francs in ten minutes, without breaking the law of the
The thousand francs, the one incontestable item in the account, comes
The second item is shared between the bailiff and the Inland Revenue
Department. The six francs due to the State for providing a piece of
stamped paper, and putting the debtor's mortification on record, will
probably ensure a long life to this abuse; and as you already know,
one franc fifty centimes from this item found its way into the
banker's pockets in the shape of Doublon's rebate.
"Bank charges one-half per cent," runs the third item, which appears
upon the ingenious plea that if a banker has not received payment, he
has for all practical purposes discounted a bill. And although the
contrary may be the case, if you fail to receive a thousand francs, it
seems to be very much the same thing as if you had paid them away.
Everybody who has discounted a bill knows that he has to pay more than
the six per cent fixed by law; for a small percentage appears under
the humble title of "charges," representing a premium on the financial
genius and skill with which the capitalist puts his money out to
interest. The more money he makes out of you, the more he asks.
Wherefore it would be undoubtedly cheaper to discount a bill with a
fool, if fools there be in the profession of bill-discounting.
The law requires the banker to obtain a stock-broker's certificate for
the rate of exchange. When a place is so unlucky as to boast no stock
exchange, two merchants act instead. This is the significance of the
item "brokerage"; it is a fixed charge of a quarter per cent on the
amount of the protested bill. The custom is to consider the amount as
paid to the merchants who act for the stock-broker, and the banker
quietly puts the money into his cash-box. So much for the third item
in this delightful account.
The fourth includes the cost of the piece of stamped paper on which
the account itself appears, as well as the cost of the stamp for
re-draft, as it is ingeniously named, viz., the banker's draft upon
his colleague in Paris.
The fifth is a charge for postage and the legal interest due upon the
amount for the time that it may happen to be absent from the banker's
The final item, the exchange, is the object for which the bank exists,
which is to say, for the transmission of sums of money from one place
Now, sift this account thoroughly, and what do you find? The method of
calculation closely resembles Polichinelle's arithmetic in Lablache's
Neapolitan song, "fifteen and five make twenty-two." The signatures of
Messieurs Postel and Gannerac were obviously given to oblige in the
way of business; the Cointets would act at need for Gannerac as
Gannerac acted for the Cointets. It was a practical application of the
well-known proverb, "Reach me the rhubarb and I will pass you the
senna." Cointet Brothers, moreover, kept a standing account with
Metivier; there was no need of a re-draft, and no re-draft was made. A
returned bill between the two firms simply meant a debit or credit
entry and another line in a ledger.
This highly-colored account, therefore, is reduced to the one thousand
francs, with an additional thirteen francs for expenses of protest,
and half per cent for a month's delay, one thousand and eighteen
francs it may be in all.
Suppose that in a large banking-house a bill for a thousand francs is
daily protested on an average, then the banker receives twenty-eight
francs a day by the grace of God and the constitution of the banking
system, that all powerful invention due to the Jewish intellect of the
Middle Ages, which after six centuries still controls monarchs and
peoples. In other words, a thousand francs would bring such a house
twenty-eight francs per day, or ten thousand two hundred and twenty
francs per annum. Triple the average of protests, and consequently of
expenses, and you shall derive an income of thirty thousand francs per
annum, interest upon purely fictitious capital. For which reason,
nothing is more lovingly cultivated than these little "accounts of
If David Sechard had come to pay his bill on the 3rd of May, that is,
the day after it was protested, MM. Cointet Brothers would have met
him at once with, "We have returned your bill to M. Metivier,"
although, as a matter of fact, the document would have been lying upon
the desk. A banker has a right to make out the account of expenses on
the evening of the day when the bill is protested, and he uses the
right to "sweat the silver crowns," in the country banker's phrase.
The Kellers, with correspondents all over the world, make twenty
thousand francs per annum by charges for postage alone; accounts of
expenses of protest pay for Mme. la Baronne de Nucingen's dresses,
opera box, and carriage. The charge for postage is a more shocking
swindle, because a house will settle ten matters of business in as
many lines of a single letter. And of the tithe wrung from misfortune,
the Government, strange to say! takes its share, and the national
revenue is swelled by a tax on commercial failure. And the Bank? from
the august height of a counting-house she flings an observation, full
of commonsense, at the debtor, "How is it?" asks she, "that you cannot
meet your bill?" and, unluckily, there is no reply to the question.
Wherefore, the "account of expenses" is an account bristling with
dreadful fictions, fit to cause any debtor, who henceforth shall
reflect upon this instructive page, a salutary shudder.
On the 4th of May, Metivier received the account from Cointet
Brothers, with instructions to proceed against M. Lucien Chardon,
otherwise de Rubempre, with the utmost rigor of the law.
Eve also wrote to M. Metivier, and a few days later received an answer
which reassured her completely:--
_To M. Sechard, Junior, Printer, Angouleme._
"I have duly received your esteemed favor of the 5th instant. From
your explanation of the bill due on April 30th, I understand that
you have obliged your brother-in-law, M. de Rubempre, who is
spending so much that it will be doing you a service to summons
him. His present position is such that he is likely to delay
payment for long. If your brother-in-law should refuse payment, I
shall rely upon the credit of your old-established house.--I sign
myself now, as ever, your obedient servant,
"Well," said Eve, commenting upon the letter to David, "Lucien will
know when they summons him that we could not pay."
What a change wrought in Eve those few words meant! The love that grew
deeper as she came to know her husband's character better and better,
was taking the place of love for her brother in her heart. But to how
many illusions had she not bade farewell?
And now let us trace out the whole history of the bill and the account
of expenses in the business world of Paris. The law enacts that the
third holder, the technical expression for the third party into whose
hands the bill passes, is at liberty to proceed for the whole amount
against any one of the various endorsers who appears to him to be most
likely to make prompt payment. M. Metivier, using this discretion,
served a summons upon Lucien. Behold the successive stages of the
proceedings, all of them perfectly futile. Metivier, with the Cointets
behind him, knew that Lucien was not in a position to pay, but
insolvency in fact is not insolvency in law until it has been formally
Formal proof of Lucien's inability to pay was obtained in the
On the 5th of May, Metivier's process-server gave Lucien notice of the
protest and an account of the expense thereof, and summoned him to
appear before the Tribunal of Commerce, or County Court, of Paris, to
hear a vast number of things: this, among others, that he was liable
to imprisonment as a merchant. By the time that Lucien, hard pressed
and hunted down on all sides, read this jargon, he received notice of
judgment against him by default. Coralie, his mistress, ignorant of
the whole matter, imagined that Lucien had obliged his brother-in-law,
and handed him all the documents together--too late. An actress sees
so much of bailiffs, duns, and writs, upon the stage, that she looks
on all stamped paper as a farce.
Tears filled Lucien's eyes; he was unhappy on Sechard's account, he
was ashamed of the forgery, he wished to pay, he desired to gain time.
Naturally he took counsel of his friends. But by the time Lousteau,
Blondet, Bixiou, and Nathan had told the poet to snap his fingers at a
court only established for tradesmen, Lucien was already in the
clutches of the law. He beheld upon his door the little yellow placard
which leaves its reflection on the porter's countenance, and exercises
a most astringent influence upon credit; striking terror into the
heart of the smallest tradesman, and freezing the blood in the veins
of a poet susceptible enough to care about the bits of wood, silken
rags, dyed woolen stuffs, and multifarious gimcracks entitled
When the broker's men came for Coralie's furniture, the author of the
_Marguerites_ fled to a friend of Bixiou's, one Desroches, a barrister,
who burst out laughing at the sight of Lucien in such a state about
nothing at all.
"That is nothing, my dear fellow. Do you want to gain time?"
"Yes, as much possible."
"Very well, apply for stay of execution. Go and look up Masson, he is
a solicitor in the Commercial Court, and a friend of mine. Take your
documents to him. He will make a second application for you, and give
notice of objection to the jurisdiction of the court. There is not the
least difficulty; you are a journalist, your name is well known
enough. If they summons you before a civil court, come to me about it,
that will be my affair; I engage to send anybody who offers to annoy
the fair Coralie about his business."
On the 28th of May, Lucien's case came on in the civil court, and
judgment was given before Desroches expected it. Lucien's creditor was
pushing on the proceedings against him. A second execution was put in,
and again Coralie's pilasters were gilded with placards. Desroches
felt rather foolish; a colleague had "caught him napping," to use his
own expression. He demurred, not without reason, that the furniture
belonged to Mlle. Coralie, with whom Lucien was living, and demanded
an order for inquiry. Thereupon the judge referred the matter to the
registrar for inquiry, the furniture was proved to belong to the
actress, and judgment was entered accordingly. Metivier appealed, and
judgment was confirmed on appeal on the 30th of June.
On the 7th of August, Maitre Cachan received by the coach a bulky
package endorsed, "Metivier _versus_ Sechard and Lucien Chardon."
The first document was a neat little bill, of which a copy (accuracy
guaranteed) is here given for the reader's benefit:--
_To Bill due the last day of April, drawn by_
Sechard, junior, _to order of_ Lucien de
Rubempre, _together with expenses of fr. c.
protest and return_ . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1037 45
May 5th--Serving notice of protest and
summons to appear before the
Tribunal of Commerce in
Paris, May 7th . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8 75
" 7th--Judgment by default and
warrant of arrest. . . . . . . . . . . . . 35 --
" 10th--Notification of judgment . . . . . . . . . 8 50
" 12th--Warrant of execution . . . . . . . . . . . 5 50
" 14th--Inventory and appraisement
previous to execution. . . . . . . . . . . 16 --
" 18th--Expenses of affixing placards. . . . . . . 15 25
" 19th--Registration . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4 --
" 24th--Verification of inventory, and
application for stay of execution
on the part of the said
Lucien de Rubempre, objecting
to the jurisdiction of the Court. . . . . . 12 --
" 27th--Order of the Court upon application
duly repeated, and transfer of
of case to the Civil Court. . . . . . . . . 35 --
Carried forward. . . . . . . . . . . . 1177 45
Brought forward 1177 45
May 28th--Notice of summary proceedings in
the Civil Court at the instance
of Metivier, represented by
counsel . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6 50
June 2nd--Judgment, after hearing both
parties, condemning Lucien for
expenses of protest and return;
the plaintiff to bear costs
of proceedings in the
Commercial Court. . . . . . . . . . . . . . 150 --
" 6th--Notification of judgment. . . . . . . . . . 10 --
" 15th--Warrant of execution. . . . . . . . . . . . 5 50
" 19th--Inventory and appraisement preparatory
to execution; interpleader summons by
the Demoiselle Coralie, claiming goods
and chattels taken in execution; demand
for immediate special inquiry before
further proceedings be taken . . . . . . . 20 --
" " --Judge's order referring matter to
registrar for immediate special inquiry. . 40 --
" " --Judgment in favor of the said
Mademoiselle Coralie . . . . . . . . . . . 250 --
" 20th--Appeal by Metivier . . . . . . . . . . . . 17 --
" 30th--Confirmation of judgment . . . . . . . . . 250 --
Total . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1926 45
Bill matured May 31st, with expenses of fr. c.
protest and return. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1037 45
Serving notice of protest. . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8 75
Total . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1046 20
Bill matured June 30th, with expenses of
protest and return. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1037 45
Serving notice of protest. . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8 75
Total . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1046 20
This document was accompanied by a letter from Metivier, instructing
Maitre Cachan, notary of Angouleme, to prosecute David Sechard with
the utmost rigor of the law. Wherefore Maitre Victor-Ange-Hermenegilde
Doublon summoned David Sechard before the Tribunal of Commerce in
Angouleme for the sum-total of four thousand and eighteen francs
eighty-five centimes, the amount of the three bills and expenses
already incurred. On the morning of the very day when Doublon served
the writ upon Eve, requiring her to pay a sum so enormous in her eyes,
there came a letter like a thunderbolt from Metivier:--
_To Monsieur Sechard, Junior, Printer, Angouleme._
"SIR,--Your brother-in-law, M. Chardon, is so shamelessly
dishonest, that he declares his furniture to be the property of an
actress with whom he is living. You ought to have informed me
candidly of these circumstances, and not have allowed me to go to
useless expense over law proceedings. I have received no answer
to my letter of the 10th of May last. You must not, therefore,
take it amiss if I ask for immediate repayment of the three bills
and the expenses to which I have been put.--Yours, etc.,
Eve had heard nothing during these months, and supposed, in her
ignorance of commercial law, that her brother had made reparation for
his sins by meeting the forged bills.
"Be quick, and go at once to Petit-Claud, dear," she said; "tell him
about it, and ask his advice."
David hurried to his schoolfellow's office.
"When you came to tell me of your appointment and offered me your
services, I did not think that I should need them so soon," he said.
Petit-Claud studied the fine face of this man who sat opposite him in
the office chair, and scarcely listened to the details of the case,
for he knew more of them already than the speaker. As soon as he saw
Sechard's anxiety, he said to himself, "The trick has succeeded."
This kind of comedy is often played in an attorney's office. "Why are
the Cointets persecuting him?" Petit-Claud wondered within himself,
for the attorney can use his wit to read his clients' thoughts as
clearly as the ideas of their opponents, and it is his business to see
both sides of the judicial web.
"You want to gain time," he said at last, when Sechard had come to an
end. "How long do you want? Something like three or four months?"
"Oh! four months! that would be my salvation," exclaimed David.
Petit-Claud appeared to him as an angel.
"Very well. No one shall lay hands on any of your furniture, and no
one shall arrest you for four months----But it will cost you a great
deal," said Petit-Claud.
"Eh! what does that matter to me?" cried Sechard.
"You are expecting some money to come in; but are you sure of it?"
asked Petit-Claud, astonished at the way in which his client walked
into the toils.
"In three months' time I shall have plenty of money," said the
inventor, with an inventor's hopeful confidence.
"Your father is still above ground," suggested Petit-Claud; "he is in
no hurry to leave his vines."
"Do you think that I am counting on my father's death?" returned
David. "I am on the track of a trade secret, the secret of making a
sheet of paper as strong as Dutch paper, without a thread of cotton in
it, and at a cost of fifty per cent less than cotton pulp."
"There is a fortune in that!" exclaimed Petit-Claud. He knew now what
the tall Cointet meant.
"A large fortune, my friend, for in ten years' time the demand for
paper will be ten times larger than it is to-day. Journalism will be
the craze of our day."
"Nobody knows your secret?"
"Nobody except my wife."
"You have not told any one what you mean to do--the Cointets, for
"I did say something about it, but in general terms, I think."
A sudden spark of generosity flashed through Petit-Claud's rancorous
soul; he tried to reconcile Sechard's interests with the Cointet's
projects and his own.
"Listen, David, we are old schoolfellows, you and I; I will fight your
case; but understand this clearly--the defence, in the teeth of the
law, will cost you five or six thousand francs! Do not compromise your
prospects. I think you will be compelled to share the profits of your
invention with some one of our paper manufacturers. Let us see now.
You will think twice before you buy or build a paper mill; and there
is the cost of the patent besides. All this means time, and money too.
The servers of writs will be down upon you too soon, perhaps, although
we are going to give them the slip----"
"I have my secret," said David, with the simplicity of the man of
"Well and good, your secret will be your plank of safety," said
Petit-Claud; his first loyal intention of avoiding a lawsuit by a
compromise was frustrated. "I do not wish to know it; but mind this
that I tell you. Work in the bowels of the earth if you can, so that
no one may watch you and gain a hint from your ways of working, or
your plank will be stolen from under your feet. An inventor and a
simpleton often live in the same skin. Your mind runs so much on your
secrets that you cannot think of everything. People will begin to have
their suspicions at last, and the place is full of paper manufacturers.
So many manufacturers, so many enemies for you! You are like a beaver
with the hunters about you; do not give them your skin----"
"Thank you, dear fellow, I have told myself all this," exclaimed
Sechard, "but I am obliged to you for showing so much concern for me
and for your forethought. It does not really matter to me myself. An
income of twelve hundred francs would be enough for me, and my father
ought by rights to leave me three times as much some day. Love and
thought make up my life--a divine life. I am working for Lucien's sake
and for my wife's."
"Come, give me this power of attorney, and think of nothing but your
discovery. If there should be any danger of arrest, I will let you
know in time, for we must think of all possibilities. And let me tell
you again to allow no one of whom you are not so sure as you are of
yourself to come into your place."
"Cerizet did not care to continue the lease of the plant and premises,
hence our little money difficulties. We have no one at home now but
Marion and Kolb, an Alsacien as trusty as a dog, and my wife and her
"One word," said Petit-Claud, "don't trust that dog----"
"You do not know him," exclaimed David; "he is like a second self."
"May I try him?"
"Yes," said Sechard.
"There, good-bye, but send Mme. Sechard to me; I must have a power of
attorney from your wife. And bear in mind, my friend, that there is a
fire burning in your affairs," said Petit-Claud, by way of warning of
all the troubles gathering in the law courts to burst upon David's
"Here am I with one foot in Burgundy and the other in Champagne," he
added to himself as he closed the office door on David.
Harassed by money difficulties, beset with fears for his wife's
health, stung to the quick by Lucien's disgrace, David had worked on
at his problem. He had been trying to find a single process to replace
the various operations of pounding and maceration to which all flax or
cotton or rags, any vegetable fibre, in fact, must be subjected; and
as he went to Petit-Claud's office, he abstractedly chewed a bit of
nettle stalk that had been steeping in water. On his way home,
tolerably satisfied with his interview, he felt a little pellet
sticking between his teeth. He laid it on his hand, flattened it out,
and saw that the pulp was far superior to any previous result. The
want of cohesion is the great drawback of all vegetable fibre; straw,
for instance, yields a very brittle paper, which may almost be called
metallic and resonant. These chances only befall bold inquirers into
"Now," said he to himself, "I must contrive to do by machinery and
some chemical agency the thing that I myself have done unconsciously."
When his wife saw him, his face was radiant with belief in victory.
There were traces of tears in Eve's face.
"Oh! my darling, do not trouble yourself; Petit-Claud will guarantee
that we shall not be molested for several months to come. There will
be a good deal of expense over it; but, as Petit-Claud said when he
came to the door with me, 'A Frenchman has a right to keep his
creditors waiting, provided he repays them capital, interest, and
costs.'--Very well, then, we shall do that----"
"And live meanwhile?" asked poor Eve, who thought of everything.
"Ah! that is true," said David, carrying his hand to his ear after the
unaccountable fashion of most perplexed mortals.
"Mother will look after little Lucien, and I can go back to work
again," said she.
"Eve! oh, my Eve!" cried David, holding his wife closely to him.--"At
Saintes, not very far from here, in the sixteenth century, there lived
one of the very greatest of Frenchmen, for he was not merely the
inventor of glaze, he was the glorious precursor of Buffon and Cuvier
besides; he was the first geologist, good, simple soul that he was.
Bernard Palissy endured the martyrdom appointed for all seekers into
secrets but his wife and children and all his neighbors were against
him. His wife used to sell his tools; nobody understood him, he
wandered about the countryside, he was hunted down, they jeered at
him. But I--am loved----"
"Dearly loved!" said Eve, with the quiet serenity of the love that is
sure of itself.
"And so may well endure all that poor Bernard Palissy suffered
--Bernard Palissy, the discoverer of Ecouen ware, the Huguenot
excepted by Charles IX. on the day of Saint-Bartholomew. He lived to
be rich and honored in his old age, and lectured on the 'Science of
Earths,' as he called it, in the face of Europe."
"So long as my fingers can hold an iron, you shall want for nothing,"
cried the poor wife, in tones that told of the deepest devotion. "When
I was Mme. Prieur's forewoman I had a friend among the girls, Basine
Clerget, a cousin of Postel's, a very good child; well, Basine told me
the other day when she brought back the linen, that she was taking
Mme. Prieur's business; I will work for her."
"Ah! you shall not work there for long," said David; "I have found
Eve, watching his face, saw the sublime belief in success which
sustains the inventor, the belief that gives him courage to go forth
into the virgin forests of the country of Discovery; and, for the
first time in her life, she answered that confident look with a
half-sad smile. David bent his head mournfully.
"Oh! my dear! I am not laughing! I did not doubt! It was not a sneer!"
cried Eve, on her knees before her husband. "But I see plainly now
that you were right to tell me nothing about your experiments and your
hopes. Ah! yes, dear, an inventor should endure the long painful
travail of a great idea alone, he should not utter a word of it even
to his wife. . . . A woman is a woman still. This Eve of yours could
not help smiling when she heard you say, 'I have found out,' for the
seventeenth time this month."
David burst out laughing so heartily at his own expense that Eve
caught his hand in hers and kissed it reverently. It was a delicious
moment for them both, one of those roses of love and tenderness that
grow beside the desert paths of the bitterest poverty, nay, at times
in yet darker depths.
As the storm of misfortune grew, Eve's courage redoubled; the
greatness of her husband's nature, his inventor's simplicity, the
tears that now and again she saw in the eyes of this dreamer of dreams
with the tender heart,--all these things aroused in her an unsuspected
energy of resistance. Once again she tried the plan that had succeeded
so well already. She wrote to M. Metivier, reminding him that the
printing office was for sale, offered to pay him out of the proceeds,
and begged him not to ruin David with needless costs. Metivier
received the heroic letter, and shammed dead. His head-clerk replied
that in the absence of M. Metivier he could not take it upon himself
to stay proceedings, for his employer had made it a rule to let the
law take its course. Eve wrote again, offering this time to renew the
bills and pay all the costs hitherto incurred. To this the clerk
consented, provided that Sechard senior guaranteed payment. So Eve
walked over to Marsac, taking Kolb and her mother with her. She braved
the old vinedresser, and so charming was she, that the old man's face
relaxed, and the puckers smoothed out at the sight of her; but when,
with inward quakings, she came to speak of a guarantee, she beheld a
sudden and complete change of the tippleographic countenance.
"If I allowed my son to put his hand to the lips of my cash box
whenever he had a mind, he would plunge it deep into the vitals, he
would take all I have!" cried old Sechard. "That is the way with
children; they eat up their parents' purse. What did I do myself, eh?
_I_ never cost my parents a farthing. Your printing office is standing
idle. The rats and the mice do all the printing that is done in
it. . . . You have a pretty face; I am very fond of you; you are a
careful, hard-working woman; but that son of mine!--Do you know what
David is? I'll tell you--he is a scholar that will never do a stroke
of work! If I had reared him, as I was reared myself, without knowing
his letters, and if I had made a 'bear' of him, like his father before
him, he would have money saved and put out to interest by now. . . .
Oh! he is my cross, that fellow is, look you! And, unluckily, he is
all the family I have, for there is never like to be a later edition.
And when he makes you unhappy----"
Eve protested with a vehement gesture of denial.
"Yes, he does," affirmed old Sechard; "you had to find a wet-nurse for
the child. Come, come, I know all about it, you are in the county
court, and the whole town is talking about you. I was only a 'bear,'
_I_ have no book learning, _I_ was not foreman at the Didots', the
first printers in the world; but yet I never set eyes on a bit of
stamped paper. Do you know what I say to myself as I go to and fro
among my vines, looking after them and getting in my vintage, and
doing my bits of business?--I say to myself, 'You are taking a lot of
trouble, poor old chap; working to pile one silver crown on another,
you will leave a fine property behind you, and the bailiffs and the
lawyers will get it all; . . . or else it will go in nonsensical
notions and crotchets.'--Look you here, child; you are the mother of
yonder little lad; it seemed to me as I held him at the font with Mme.
Chardon that I could see his old grandfather's copper nose on his
face; very well, think less of Sechard and more of that little rascal.
I can trust no one but you; you will prevent him from squandering my
property--my poor property."
"But, dear papa Sechard, your son will be a credit to you, you will
see; he will make money and be a rich man one of these days, and wear
the Cross of the Legion of Honor at his buttonhole."
"What is he going to do to get it?"
"You will see. But, meanwhile, would a thousand crowns ruin you? A
thousand crowns would put an end to the proceedings. Well, if you
cannot trust him, lend the money to me; I will pay it back; you could
make it a charge on my portion, on my earnings----"
"Then has some one brought David into a court of law?" cried the
vinedresser, amazed to find that the gossip was really true. "See what
comes of knowing how to write your name! And how about my rent! Oh!
little girl, I must go to Angouleme at once and ask Cachan's advice,
and see that I am straight. You did right well to come over.
Forewarned is forearmed."
After two hours of argument Eve was fain to go, defeated by the
unanswerable _dictum_, "Women never understand business." She had come
with a faint hope, she went back again almost heartbroken, and reached
home just in time to receive notice of judgment; Sechard must pay
Metivier in full. The appearance of a bailiff at a house door is an
event in a country town, and Doublon had come far too often of late.
The whole neighborhood was talking about the Sechards. Eve dared not
leave her house; she dreaded to hear the whispers as she passed.
"Oh! my brother, my brother!" cried poor Eve, as she hurried into the
passage and up the stairs, "I can never forgive you, unless it
"Alas! it was that, or suicide," said David, who had followed her.
"Let us say no more about it," she said quietly. "The woman who
dragged him down into the depths of Paris has much to answer for; and
your father, my David, is quite inexorable! Let us bear it in
A discreet rapping at the door cut short some word of love on David's
lips. Marion appeared, towing the big, burly Kolb after her across the
"Madame," said Marion, "we have known, Kolb and I, that you and the
master were very much put about; and as we have eleven hundred francs
of savings between us, we thought we could not do better than put them
in the mistress' hands----"
"Die misdress," echoed Kolb fervently.
"Kolb," cried David, "you and I will never part. Pay a thousand francs
on account to Maitre Cachan, and take a receipt for it; we will keep
the rest. And, Kolb, no power on earth must extract a word from you as
to my work, or my absences from home, or the things you may see me
bring back; and if I send you to look for plants for me, you know, no
human being must set eyes on you. They will try to corrupt you, my
good Kolb; they will offer you thousands, perhaps tens of thousands of
francs, to tell----"
"Dey may offer me millions," cried Kolb, "but not ein vort from me
shall dey traw. Haf I not peen in der army, and know my orders?"
"Well, you are warned. March, and ask M. Petit-Claud to go with you as
"Yes," said the Alsacien. "Some tay I hope to be rich enough to dust
der chacket of dat man of law. I don't like his gountenance."
"Kolb is a good man, madame," said Big Marion; "he is as strong as a
Turk, and as meek as a lamb. Just the one that would make a woman
happy. It was his notion, too, to invest our savings this way
--'safings,' as he calls them. Poor man, if he doesn't speak right, he
thinks right, and I understand him all the same. He has a notion of
working for somebody else, so as to save us his keep----"
"Surely we shall be rich, if it is only to repay these good folk,"
said David, looking at his wife.
Eve thought it quite simple; it was no surprise to her to find other
natures on a level with her own. The dullest--nay, the most
indifferent--observer could have seen all the beauty of her nature in
her way of receiving this service.
"You will be rich some day, dear master," said Marion; "your bread is
ready baked. Your father has just bought another farm, he is putting
by money for you; that he is."
And under the circumstances, did not Marion show an exquisite delicacy
of feeling by belittling, as it were, her kindness in this way?
French procedure, like all things human, has its defects;
nevertheless, the sword of justice, being a two-edged weapon, is
excellently adapted alike for attack or defence. Procedure, moreover,
has its amusing side; for when opposed, lawyers arrive at an
understanding, as they well may do, without exchanging a word; through
their manner of conducting their case, a suit becomes a kind of war
waged on the lines laid down by the first Marshal Biron, who, at the
siege of Rouen, it may be remembered, received his son's project for
taking the city in two days with the remark, "You must be in a great
hurry to go and plant cabbages!" Let two commanders-in-chief spare
their troops as much as possible, let them imitate the Austrian
generals who give the men time to eat their soup though they fail to
effect a juncture, and escape reprimand from the Aulic Council; let
them avoid all decisive measures, and they shall carry on a war for
ever. Maitre Cachan, Petit-Claud, and Doublon, did better than the
Austrian generals; they took for their example Quintus Fabius
Cunctator--the Austrian of antiquity.
Petit-Claud, malignant as a mule, was not long in finding out all the
advantages of his position. No sooner had Boniface Cointet guaranteed
his costs than he vowed to lead Cachan a dance, and to dazzle the
paper manufacturer with a brilliant display of genius in the creation
of items to be charged to Metivier. Unluckily for the fame of the
young forensic Figaro, the writer of this history is obliged to pass
over the scene of his exploits in as great a hurry as if he trod on
burning coals; but a single bill of costs, in the shape of the
specimen sent from Paris, will no doubt suffice for the student of
contemporary manners. Let us follow the example set us by the
Bulletins of the Grande Armee, and give a summary of Petit-Claud's
valiant feats and exploits in the province of pure law; they will be
the better appreciated for concise treatment.
David Sechard was summoned before the Tribunal of Commerce at
Angouleme for the 3rd of July, made default, and notice of judgment
was served on the 8th. On the 10th, Doublon obtained an execution
warrant, and attempted to put in an execution on the 12th. On this
Petit-Claud applied for an interpleader summons, and served notice on
Metivier for that day fortnight. Metivier made application for a
hearing without delay, and on the 19th, Sechard's application was
dismissed. Hard upon this followed notice of judgment, authorizing the
issue of an execution warrant on the 22nd, a warrant of arrest on the
23rd, and bailiff's inventory previous to the execution on the 24th.
Metivier, Doublon, Cachan & Company were proceeding at this furious
pace, when Petit-Claud suddenly pulled them up, and stayed execution
by lodging notice of appeal on the Court-Royal. Notice of appeal, duly
reiterated on the 25th of July, drew Metivier off to Poitiers.
"Come!" said Petit-Claud to himself, "there we are likely to stop for
some time to come."
No sooner was the storm passed over to Poitiers, and an attorney
practising in the Court-Royal instructed to defend the case, than
Petit-Claud, a champion facing both ways, made application in Mme.
Sechard's name for the immediate separation of her estate from her
husband's; using "all diligence" (in legal language) to such purpose,
that he obtained an order from the court on the 28th, and inserted
notice at once in the _Charente Courier_. Now David the lover had
settled ten thousand francs upon his wife in the marriage contract,
making over to her as security the fixtures of the printing office and
the household furniture; and Petit-Claud therefore constituted Mme.
Sechard her husband's creditor for that small amount, drawing up a
statement of her claims on the estate in the presence of a notary on
the 1st of August.
While Petit-Claud was busy securing the household property of his
clients, he gained the day at Poitiers on the point of law on which
the demurrer and appeals were based. He held that, as the court of the
Seine had ordered the plaintiff to pay costs of proceedings in the
Paris commercial court, David was so much the less liable for expenses
of litigation incurred upon Lucien's account. The Court-Royal took
this view of the case, and judgment was entered accordingly. David
Sechard was ordered to pay the amount in dispute in the Angouleme
Court, less the law expenses incurred in Paris; these Metivier must
pay, and each side must bear its own costs in the appeal to the
David Sechard was duly notified of the result on the 17th of August.
On the 18th the judgment took the practical shape of an order to pay
capital, interest, and costs, followed up by notice of an execution
for the morrow. Upon this Petit-Claud intervened and put in a claim
for the furniture as the wife's property duly separated from her
husband's; and what was more, Petit-Claud produced Sechard senior upon
the scene of action. The old vinegrower had become his client on this
wise. He came to Angouleme on the day after Eve's visit, and went to
Maitre Cachan for advice. His son owed him arrears of rent; how could
he come by this rent in the scrimmage in which his son was engaged?
"I am engaged by the other side," pronounced Cachan, "and I cannot
appear for the father when I am suing the son; but go to Petit-Claud,
he is very clever, he may perhaps do even better for you than I should
Cachan and Petit-Claud met at the Court.
"I have sent you Sechard senior," said Cachan; "take the case for me
in exchange." Lawyers do each other services of this kind in country
towns as well as in Paris.
The day after Sechard senior gave Petit-Claud his confidence, the tall
Cointet paid a visit to his confederate.
"Try to give old Sechard a lesson," he said. "He is the kind of man
that will never forgive his son for costing him a thousand francs or
so; the outlay will dry up any generous thoughts in his mind, if he
ever has any."
"Go back to your vines," said Petit-Claud to his new client. "Your son
is not very well off; do not eat him out of house and home. I will
send for you when the time comes."
On behalf of Sechard senior, therefore, Petit-Claud claimed that the
presses, being fixtures, were so much the more to be regarded as tools
and implements of trade, and the less liable to seizure, in that the
house had been a printing office since the reign of Louis XIV. Cachan,
on Metivier's account, waxed indignant at this. In Paris Lucien's
furniture had belonged to Coralie, and here again in Angouleme David's
goods and chattels all belonged to his wife or his father; pretty
things were said in court. Father and son were summoned; such claims
could not be allowed to stand.
"We mean to unmask the frauds intrenched behind bad faith of the most
formidable kind; here is the defence of dishonesty bristling with the
plainest and most innocent articles of the Code, and why?--to avoid
repayment of three thousand francs; obtained how?--from poor
Metivier's cash box! And yet there are those who dare to say a word
against bill-discounters! What times we live in! . . . Now, I put it
to you--what is this but taking your neighbor's money? . . . You will
surely not sanction a claim which would bring immorality to the very
core of justice!"
Cachan's eloquence produced an effect on the court. A divided judgment
was given in favor of Mme. Sechard, the house furniture being held to
be her property; and against Sechard senior, who was ordered to pay
costs--four hundred and thirty-four francs, sixty-five centimes.
"It is kind of old Sechard," laughed the lawyers; "he would have a
finger in the pie, so let him pay!"
Notice of judgment was given on the 26th of August; the presses and
plant could be seized on the 28th. Placards were posted. Application
was made for an order empowering them to sell on the spot.
Announcements of the sale appeared in the papers, and Doublon
flattered himself that the inventory should be verified and the
auction take place on the 2nd of September.
By this time David Sechard owed Metivier five thousand two hundred and
seventy-five francs, twenty-five centimes (to say nothing of
interest), by formal judgment confirmed by appeal, the bill of costs
having been duly taxed. Likewise to Petit-Claud he owed twelve hundred
francs, exclusive of the fees, which were left to David's generosity
with the generous confidence displayed by the hackney coachman who has
driven you so quickly over the road on which you desire to go.
Mme. Sechard owed Petit-Claud something like three hundred and fifty
francs and fees besides; and of old Sechard, besides four hundred and
thirty-four francs, sixty-five centimes, the little attorney demanded
a hundred crowns by way of fee. Altogether, the Sechard family owed
about ten thousand francs. This is what is called "putting fire into
the bed straw."
Apart from the utility of these documents to other nations who thus
may behold the battery of French law in action, the French legislator
ought to know the lengths to which the abuse of procedure may be
carried, always supposing that the said legislator can find time for
reading. Surely some sort of regulation might be devised, some way of
forbidding lawyers to carry on a case until the sum in dispute is more
than eaten up in costs? Is there not something ludicrous in the idea
of submitting a square yard of soil and an estate of thousands of
acres to the same legal formalities? These bare outlines of the
history of the various stages of procedure should open the eyes of
Frenchmen to the meaning of the words "legal formalities, justice, and
costs," little as the immense majority of the nations know about them.
Five thousand pounds' weight of type in the printing office were worth
two thousand francs as old metal; the three presses were valued at six
hundred francs; the rest of the plant would fetch the price of old
iron and firewood. The household furniture would have brought in a
thousand francs at most. The whole personal property of Sechard junior
therefore represented the sum of four thousand francs; and Cachan and
Petit-Claud made claims for seven thousand francs in costs already
incurred, to say nothing of expenses to come, for the blossom gave
promise of fine fruits enough, as the reader will shortly see. Surely
the lawyers of France and Navarre, nay, even of Normandy herself, will
not refuse Petit-Claud his meed of admiration and respect? Surely,
too, kind hearts will give Marion and Kolb a tear of sympathy?
All through the war Kolb sat on a chair in the doorway, acting as
watch-dog, when David had nothing else for him to do. It was Kolb who
received all the notifications, and a clerk of Petit-Claud's kept
watch over Kolb. No sooner were the placards announcing the auction
put up on the premises than Kolb tore them down; he hurried round the
town after the bill-poster, tearing the placards from the walls.
"Ah, scountrels!" he cried, "to dorment so goot a man; and they calls
Marion made half a franc a day by working half time in a paper mill as
a machine tender, and her wages contributed to the support of the
household. Mme. Chardon went back uncomplainingly to her old
occupation, sitting up night after night, and bringing home her wages
at the end of the week. Poor Mme. Chardon! Twice already she had made
a nine days' prayer for those she loved, wondering that God should be
deaf to her petitions, and blind to the light of the candles on His
On the 2nd of September, a letter came from Lucien, the first since
the letter of the winter, which David had kept from his wife's
knowledge--the announcement of the three bills which bore David's
signature. This time Lucien wrote to Eve.
"The third since he left us!" she said. Poor sister, she was afraid to
open the envelope that covered the fatal sheet.
She was feeding the little one when the post came in; they could not
afford a wet-nurse now, and the child was being brought up by hand.
Her state of mind may be imagined, and David's also, when he had been
roused to read the letter, for David had been at work all night, and
only lay down at daybreak.
_Lucien to Eve._
"PARIS, August 29th.
"MY DEAR SISTER,--Two days ago, at five o'clock in the morning,
one of God's noblest creatures breathed her last in my arms; she
was the one woman on earth capable of loving me as you and mother
and David love me, giving me besides that unselfish affection,
something that neither mother nor sister can give--the utmost
bliss of love. Poor Coralie, after giving up everything for my
sake, may perhaps have died for me--for me, who at this moment
have not the wherewithal to bury her. She could have solaced my
life; you, and you alone, my dear good angels, can console me for
her death. God has forgiven her, I think, the innocent girl, for
she died like a Christian. Oh, this Paris! Eve, Paris is the glory
and the shame of France. Many illusions I have lost here already,
and I have others yet to lose, when I begin to beg for the little
money needed before I can lay the body of my angel in consecrated
"Your unhappy brother,
"P. S. I must have given you much trouble by my heedlessness; some
day you will know all, and you will forgive me. You must be quite
easy now; a worthy merchant, a M. Camusot, to whom I once caused
cruel pangs, promised to arrange everything, seeing that Coralie
and I were so much distressed."
"The sheet is still moist with his tears," said Eve, looking at the
letter with a heart so full of sympathy that something of the old love
for Lucien shone in her eyes.
"Poor fellow, he must have suffered cruelly if he has been loved as he
says!" exclaimed Eve's husband, happy in his love; and these two
forgot all their own troubles at this cry of a supreme sorrow. Just at
that moment Marion rushed in.
"Madame," she panted, "here they are! Here they are!"
"Who is here?"
"Doublon and his men, bad luck to them! Kolb will not let them come
in; they have come to sell us up."
"No, no, they are not going to sell you up, never fear," cried a voice
in the next room, and Petit-Claud appeared upon the scene. "I have
just lodged notice of appeal. We ought not to sit down under a
judgment that attaches a stigma of bad faith to us. I did not think it
worth while to fight the case here. I let Cachan talk to gain time for
you; I am sure of gaining the day at Poitiers----"
"But how much will it cost to win the day?" asked Mme. Sechard.
"Fees if you win, one thousand francs if we lose our case."
"Oh, dear!" cried poor Eve; "why, the remedy is worse than the
Petit-Claud was not a little confused at this cry of innocence
enlightened by the progress of the flames of litigation. It struck him
too that Eve was a very beautiful woman. In the middle of the
discussion old Sechard arrived, summoned by Petit-Claud. The old man's
presence in the chamber where his little grandson in the cradle lay
smiling at misfortune completed the scene. The young attorney at once
addressed the newcomer with:
"You owe me seven hundred francs for the interpleader, Papa Sechard;
but you can charge the amount to your son in addition to the arrears
The vinedresser felt the sting of the sarcasm conveyed by
Petit-Claud's tone and manner.
"It would have cost you less to give security for the debt at first,"
said Eve, leaving the cradle to greet her father-in-law with a kiss.
David, quite overcome by the sight of the crowd outside the house (for
Kolb's resistance to Doublon's men had collected a knot of people),
could only hold out a hand to his father; he did not say a word.
"And how, pray, do I come to owe you seven hundred francs?" the old
man asked, looking at Petit-Claud.
"Why, in the first place, I am engaged by you. Your rent is in
question; so, as far as I am concerned, you and our debtor are one and
the same person. If your son does not pay my costs in the case, you
must pay them yourself.--But this is nothing. In a few hours David
will be put in prison; will you allow him to go?"
"What does he owe?"
"Something like five or six thousand francs, besides the amounts owing
to you and to his wife."
The speech roused all the old man's suspicions at once. He looked
round the little blue-and-white bedroom at the touching scene before
his eyes--at a beautiful woman weeping over a cradle, at David bowed
down by anxieties, and then again at the lawyer. This was a trap set
for him by that lawyer; perhaps they wanted to work upon his paternal
feelings, to get money out of him? That was what it all meant. He took
alarm. He went over to the cradle and fondled the child, who held out
both little arms to him. No heir to an English peerage could be more
tenderly cared for than this little one in that house of trouble; his
little embroidered cap was lined with pale pink.
"Eh! let David get out of it as best he may. I am thinking of this
child here," cried the old grandfather, "and the child's mother will
approve of that. David that knows so much must know how to pay his
"Now I will just put your meaning into plain language," said
Petit-Claud ironically. "Look here, Papa Sechard, you are jealous of
your son. Hear the truth! you put David into his present position by
selling the business to him for three times its value. You ruined him
to make an extortionate bargain! Yes, don't you shake your head; you
sold the newspaper to the Cointets and pocketed all the proceeds, and
that was as much as the whole business was worth. You bear David a
grudge, not merely because you have plundered him, but because, also,
your own son is a man far above yourself. You profess to be
prodigiously fond of your grandson, to cloak your want of feeling for
your son and his wife, because you ought to pay down money _hic et nunc_
for them, while you need only show a posthumous affection for your
grandson. You pretend to be fond of the little fellow, lest you should
be taxed with want of feeling for your own flesh and blood. That is
the bottom of it, Papa Sechard."
"Did you fetch me over to hear this?" asked the old man, glowering at
his lawyer, his daughter-in-law, and his son in turn.
"Monsieur!" protested poor Eve, turning to Petit-Claud, "have you
vowed to ruin us? My husband had never uttered a word against his
father." (Here the old man looked cunningly at her.) "David has told
me scores of times that you loved him in your way," she added, looking
at her father-in-law, and understanding his suspicions.
Petit-Claud was only following out the tall Cointet's instructions. He
was widening the breach between the father and son, lest Sechard
senior should extricate David from his intolerable position. "The day
that David Sechard goes to prison shall be the day of your
introduction to Mme. de Senonches," the "tall Cointet" had said no
longer ago than yesterday.
Mme. Sechard, with the quick insight of love, had divined
Petit-Claud's mercenary hostility, even as she had once before felt
instinctively that Cerizet was a traitor. As for David, his
astonishment may be imagined; he could not understand how Petit-Claud
came to know so much of his father's nature and his own history.
Upright and honorable as he was, he did not dream of the relations
between his lawyer and the Cointets; nor, for that matter, did he know
that the Cointets were at work behind Metivier. Meanwhile old Sechard
took his son's silence as an insult, and Petit-Claud, taking advantage
of his client's bewilderment, beat a retreat.
"Good-bye, my dear David; you have had warning, notice of appeal
doesn't invalidate the warrant for arrest. It is the only course left
open to your creditors, and it will not be long before they take it.
So, go away at once----Or, rather, if you will take my advice, go to
the Cointets and see them about it. They have capital. If your
invention is perfected and answers the purpose, go into partnership
with them. After all, they are very good fellows----"
"Your invention?" broke in old Sechard.
"Why, do you suppose that your son is fool enough to let his business
slip away from him without thinking of something else?" exclaimed the
attorney. "He is on the brink of the discovery of a way of making
paper at a cost of three francs per ream, instead of ten, he tells
"One more dodge for taking me in! You are all as thick as thieves in a
fair. If David has found out such a plan, he has no need of me--he is
a millionaire! Good-bye, my dears, and a good-day to you all," and the
old man disappeared down the staircase.
"Find some way of hiding yourself," was Petit-Claud's parting word to
David, and with that he hurried out to exasperate old Sechard still
further. He found the vinegrower growling to himself outside in the
Place du Murier, went with him as far as L'Houmeau, and there left him
with a threat of putting in an execution for the costs due to him
unless they were paid before the week was out.
"I will pay you if you will show me how to disinherit my son without
injuring my daughter-in-law or the boy," said old Sechard, and they
"How well the 'tall Cointet' knows the folk he is dealing with! It is
just as he said; those seven hundred francs will prevent the father
from paying seven thousand," the little lawyer thought within himself
as he climbed the path to Angouleme. "Still, that old slyboots of a
paper-maker must not overreach us; it is time to ask him for something
"Well, David dear, what do you mean to do?" asked Eve, when the lawyer
had followed her father-in-law.
"Marion, put your biggest pot on the fire!" called David; "I have my
At this Eve put on her bonnet and shawl and walking shoes with
"Kolb, my friend, get ready to go out," she said, "and come with me;
if there is any way out of this hell, I must find it."
When Eve had gone out, Marion spoke to David. "Do be sensible, sir,"
she said, "or the mistress will fret herself to death. Make some money
to pay off your debts, and then you can try to find treasure at your
"Don't talk, Marion," said David; "I am going to overcome my last
difficulty, and then I can apply for the patent and the improvement on
the patent at the same time."
This "improvement on the patent" is the curse of the French patentee.
A man may spend ten years of his life in working out some obscure
industrial problem; and when he has invented some piece of machinery,
or made a discovery of some kind, he takes out a patent and imagines
that he has a right to his own invention; then there comes a
competitor; and unless the first inventor has foreseen all possible
contingencies, the second comer makes an "improvement on the patent"
with a screw or a nut, and takes the whole thing out of his hands. The
discovery of a cheap material for paper pulp, therefore, is by no
means the conclusion of the whole matter. David Sechard was anxiously
looking ahead on all sides lest the fortune sought in the teeth of
such difficulties should be snatched out of his hands at the last.
Dutch paper as flax paper is still called, though it is no longer made
in Holland, is slightly sized; but every sheet is sized separately by
hand, and this increases the cost of production. If it were possible
to discover some way of sizing the paper in the pulping-trough, with
some inexpensive glue, like that in use to-day (though even now it is
not quite perfect), there would be no "improvement on the patent" to
fear. For the past month, accordingly, David had been making
experiments in sizing pulp. He had two discoveries before him.
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